Monday, August 15, 2016

Follow and Emulate the Shepherd

John 10:27 NKJV - My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

In Jesus’ day most people easily understood the role of a shepherd with their sheep. In today’s world where most of us live in cities and bustle to and from work, school, and errands, we may not even think about farm animals and how that life really is. However, we have stories that help us understand and I have a couple from people I know who herd sheep.

The best news is the Shepherd knows His sheep. Jesus knows you inside and out. He knows what it will take for us to learn the right way to follow Him. He will not lead us astray and will be right there when we get lost.

Any good shepherd will have sheep that quickly learn he is there to protect them and help them. They will answer when they hear him and follow accordingly. However, they will not always do this correctly or as assuredly if the circumstances make things rough. For example, one shepherd had her sheep get stuck out in the field due to a freak snowstorm. They would not come down the field towards her so she trekked up to them. The more trusting of the herd started moving towards her before she got to them and then the rest fell into line. They went single file across the field in her path.

We are like the sheep and are at different levels of understanding and trust with God. There is nothing wrong with this because we all started out from the beginning. Some of us will be more willing to step out in the midst of turmoil towards the shepherd than others will. Peter was the only one that climbed out of the boat to walk on the water during a storm since Jesus said to come.

In following we learn how to emulate the shepherd. As our trust in Him grows, so does our willingness to try new things he reveals.

One of the shepherds I know was shocked to find her sheep emulating her one day. She plucks up milkweed she finds in the pasture so it won’t go to seed and take over. Sheep know not to eat it and will graze around it. On this one particular day she realized the sheep were following her around the field. As she watched they were biting off the milkweed and dropping it on the ground like she had been doing.

We should be like these sheep and doing our best to emulate our Shepherd, Jesus Christ. We should be like David, who was the shepherd of his father’s sheep growing up. Psalm 23, written by David, starts with, “The Lord is my shepherd…” He knew to trust God even when he went astray and came back due to correction.

Who is your shepherd? If Jesus is your shepherd, do you trust Him enough to follow through anything?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Pride Promotes Strife

James 4:1-6 NKJV
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?

6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:

"God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble."  

Pride makes us want to promote ourselves rather than God. This causes fights even among Christians when we put our desires first. We get aggressive in what we want and are not happy until we have it. This is not the way we get what we truly need.

We get what God knows is best if we pray to Him. Do not do it to get what you want. God might have a better idea. Our motives should align with his when we ask and He will give us what we truly need. He will even tell you if you are not getting it or if something better is coming if we have some patience. There is nothing wrong with wanting things, but make sure your desires are not for self-gratification or for appearances.

The best way to curb the evil desires that occur due to pride is to learn humility. Pride makes us self-centered while humility can allow us to be other-centered. When we are humble God can then work wonders through us that can help many and He does reward us for doing so. We won’t need the latest and greatest car, gadget, whatever, but will want to spread the Good News and help others instead.

Which would you prefer to step into the future as: the prideful, selfish you that can so easily blow up when things go wrong and you don’t get what you want? Or the one who has God on their side and find even greater fulfillment doing as God wants with all your needs met? I’ve been on both sides of this and I’ll stick to doing it God’s way.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Signs of the Times

Before reading further, I would like you to stop and pray for anyone suffering from loss and injury due to the recent brutality of shootings, wars and other tribulations caused by hate.

Now read and ponder what Jesus told his disciples when they asked about his return, what many now call the Second Coming.

Matt 24:4-14 NKJV

4 And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you.  5 For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.  6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.  8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. 

9 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.  10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. 

We have had wars and murders since man’s fall and removal from the Garden of Eden. We can’t blame it on the tool used to commit the crime. It can’t move unless a human uses it and then it will do exactly what the human decides. We can blame it on man’s selfishness and lawlessness. Our desire for the individual rights over all else and then segregating by color, race, creed, financial station, etc. has us in a broken state of affairs. Even in the church we have groups saying their way is the right way and everyone else is wrong. There is a cacophony of voices out there wanting our attention and many are just giving us feel good about yourself lip service.

We have entered the age of false prophets and loose morals. This leads to a very destructive disease, the loss of love for God and others. We must be first and then we bother with others. When things don’t go our way we want to blame someone and find some way to protest the outrage. We think we are entitled to having it and doing it our way. This is no way of showing love. You cannot show love to others if you are only thinking of yourself.

I have a great many friends and family who are not living as Jesus says. Many who are not sure they want to know Him because of all the false prophets out there. I don’t blame them because at one point I was in their shoes. However, once I understood who Jesus really was and accepted Him, I was finally free to be myself and learned to love despite the differences. I have people telling me I’m a Christian that they will listen to even if they don’t agree. Maybe it’s because when I wasn’t a Christian, the ones I did listen to showed me love and did not make me feel Bible thumped. They loved me anyway and still were able to tell me about Jesus. When I accepted Him, they were the ones I ran to for a church. They were the ones I stuck with when their actions and words kept lining up with the Bible and if they did not they had the guts to admit they made a mistake.

What voices are you listening to today? Have you set your goals so they are all about you or are they about helping others? Are you immediately retaliating due to some wrong done to you no matter how big or small? Or are you showing love that can convince people to be better? Are you helping spread the hate mongering and finger pointing that tears us apart or are you breaking the cycle? 

I pray that you chose Jesus and endure with Him to the end no matter what comes your way. God’s Word should be our weapon to change the world.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Functions of the Law

We are under a new covenant with Jesus Christ, but it’s the Law that made us realize we needed Him to save us. It is the Law that helps us understand how to obey Him. It will not save us, that is what Jesus did for us on the cross if we accept it. Once saved we follow the Law only to know how to grow and be like Him, our greatest example of how God intended us to live.

Psalm 19:7-11 NKJV

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.

A quote from Ray Comfort says, “The demands of a holy Law bring us to the foot of the cross and keep us there, trusting only in the grace of God.” The grace is our gift if we accept Christ. We will be forgiven and have a chance to continue on in life under new rules that really set us free from all the bondage our worldly living caused. Don’t despair if this takes time. Just like a child learning to do things, there are steps to be taken on the journey.

Ignorance of the Law is no excuse. Whether you know you broke a law or not, you are still guilty. This goes for any law made by man or by God. God wrote His Law on our hearts and our conscience will bear witness against us. There are moral standards God imprinted upon man when he made him in His image and breathed life into him. No matter what culture you talk to, there are the same ideas. Now some may not see them all the same way and some have tried to stamp out some of the Laws, but the choice is for each person to make. Have you hardened your heart to try and run from these Laws or are you letting them guide you?

Christianity really is a “guilt trip” because it takes you straight to the cross. If you go there and accept Jesus Christ as your savior, all that guilt is removed. You are made new and can start living life the way God intended. However, I would heed what J. I. Parker once said, “Simple assent to the gospel, divorced from a transforming commitment to the living Christ, is by biblical standards less then faith, and less then saving, and to elicit only assent of this kind would be to secure false conversions.”

It’s truly an all or nothing commitment, but it’s the best decision I ever made. Now I march to the tune of God’s Law because I am His child and understand it makes life better, not because it keeps me saved or gets me what I want. Which way are you marching today? I pray you accept Jesus to the fullest and learn to accept the abundant life He offers when we follow Him.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Meditation is Focused Thinking

Phil 4:8-9 NKJV - Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.

Many people see meditation as an emptying of the mind. This is just emptiness. Nothing constructive or even destructive is going on. Quiet is nice at times, but it is better for the mind to be focused on the right stuff. The Bible tells us to meditate on good things, things that align with how God meant us to live.

Worrying is meditation of the negative kind. You are focused on all the bad stuff going on. Unless you are working on a solution to the problem, stop thinking about it. Especially stop wondering what to do about things you have no control over. If it is the past, you can’t change it.

What you can do is meditate on positive things. No matter how bleak things may look and feel to you, there is some positive there, too. It might even be as simple as someone just giving you a friendly smile, holding a door for you, or saying hi even if you are a stranger. It might be the way the sun hits the dew on the grass. Finding a flower where you did not expect one to grow. The hug of your child even if they were just being bad a few minutes before.

God’s Word is the best thing to meditate on due to all the great promises He has given us if we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. Way before God sent this wonderful gift of salvation to us, He was telling His people to meditate on his word. He told this to Joshua when he took over leading the Israelites after Moses died. Josh 1:8 NKJV - This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Sure this part is based on the old covenant and law, but Jesus came to fulfill that law. If it were not for the Law we would not know what was right or wrong and thus know we were sinners needing a savior.

Never stop meditating on God’s word every day. It is our spiritual food and we need it as much as we need meals to fuel our body each day. Do not just read the Word, but digest it to know how to be prosperous and have good success.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

On Earth We Know in Part

1 Cor 13:8-12 NLT - Now we know only a little, and even the gift of prophecy reveals little! But when the end comes, these special gifts will all disappear. It's like this: When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now.

I love that Paul, who wrote so many of the epistles in the New Testament claimed we all knew in part. I believe this is true. Just like children we have to learn things in stages and God reveals things that way.

It’s good that it makes us want to know more, but we should not be making things up to fill in the holes due to impatience. When we do that we skew God’s Word. God reveals things as we are able to learn and properly digest them. I always equate this to an onion. The first few layers come off pretty easy. Deeper in they are fresher and as they come loose the smell is strong enough to make our eyes water. We all have our own layers we should peel away to be like Christ. The deeper we go the harder it may get, but well worth the effort.

God did not leave us here without help. He gave us the Holy Spirit as our counselor and guide. He made sure we had his revelations over time written into the Bible. If we are unsure that something is of God, we should be checking the Bible. The Holy Spirit will help us feel God’s peace about things that are right, but we should always be in our Bible daily.

Knowing the Bible keeps us close to God’s plan, promises, and purpose. It is our weapon against our enemy who would rather devour us than see us take even one step with Christ. Without daily Bible study to know more and maintain our connection with God, we leave ourselves open to being sidetracked by the wiles of our enemy. This should really scare us: we can know the right way to go, but still run off the grid to do wrong. Some of the kings of Israel were guilty of this and led the people into greater wrongs than could have been imagined before.

I encourage you to keep pushing through and growing. If you can’t figure something out, go to your pastor or someone you trust with God’s Word to help you understand it. Get encouragement when you need it from a church member you know. God made us a family. We are not perfect, but together we can learn from each other and grow stronger in the Lord.

For the non-believers reading this, I encourage you to seek out Jesus and when you do accept him, I promise you will know who to run to. You will know the Christian friends or people in your life that truly walk with Jesus and they will welcome you in so you can learn to grow with God. It happened for me at thirty-three. Don’t go looking for perfect. Go looking for God’s love and you will see it in them.

Let’s all learn to walk with the Lord together and shine his love into a dark world one step at a time.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

He Is Risen

The cross is the hardest thing to digest with the Christian faith, but it is the crux of it. If God knew we would require His son, Jesus, to die for us, why did he give us free will in the first place? Why not do it differently?

The answer is in his love. He reveals himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit to show us proper relationship. He gave us free will so we could choose him. He could have so easily made little automated toys to tend the garden.  Instead he made man in his image and gave him free will.

We can now read the Old Testament using Jesus as a lens. God knew what was going to happen. He made sure man knew about it. The more we dig to prove things right or wrong with the Bible the stronger its truth becomes. It keeps pointing at Jesus and his death on a cross for us. It points at how God wants us to be part of His family, but only through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is definitely Lord of Lords and King of Kings, but he is also our brother when we are adopted into God’s family. He wants to be our friend. When Jesus returned to heaven after defeating death, God made sure we had a helper in the Holy Spirit.

This should be blowing our minds. It is very hard for us in our short lives on earth stuck in the confines of time to digest this. All eternity is out there beyond our own deaths and that scares us. However, we know Jesus defeated death and is eternal. Being in the image of God we have an eternal piece that longs to be acquainted with him here and now, and beyond.

Some wonder about Christians who truly believe in eternity and whether what Jesus told us was the truth. Honestly, after many disappointments and downfalls in life, I decided to give Jesus a shot. I’m going to stick with him.

If you are not walking with him yet, I would like you to really think on why. Some say it is all nonsense, but I’d rather have a chance at heaven rather than an eternity in hell when Jesus is proven right upon his return. If he is proven wrong, I am still no worse off than anyone else at the end. So I’ll be talking up Jesus until the day I die and sticking to His ways. It has made far more sense than a lot of other things.

Please take the time to check Jesus out for yourself. He wants you to be part of his family and his friend. He wants a one-on-one relationship with each and every one of us.